I had the slot right after lunch. A lot of speakers hate that slot. People are tired after lunch, or they got an email that morning that required them to spend their lunch hour putting out a fire, or they have so much swirling around their brains from the morning sessions they can’t stay focused. You know what I mean. Siesta time.
The host took the microphone to introduce me, and as she had for the morning speakers, started with her obligatory blah blah blah, turn-off-your-phones, surveys-are-on-the-table, housekeeping announcement.
I could see heads already starting to nod off.
I switched on my microphone, put up my first slide of me in a super hero costume and said,
“Thank you, Margaret. Yes, I am Phil Wrzesinski and I am going to be your Super Hero today. First, since I know you just finished lunch, I am passing out dessert. Chocolates. Dark chocolates to be exact. The healthy kind. Full of antioxidants to get you going. Second, I have some housekeeping of my own. Go ahead and turn your phones back on. If I can’t keep your attention for the next hour, then frankly, I am not doing my job. And today I feel up to it. You’re going to learn some things today that you’ll want to share. Please do. Finally, go ahead and grab those surveys. Under the section about handouts go ahead and mark that a 5. I have complete notes of this workshop available for everyone right after I’m done. You might as well mark that first question a 5, too. We’re going to have fun. You ready?”
Do you see what I was doing? I was anticipating my audience’s needs before I even got on stage. I knew they would be a little groggy. I knew they needed something to pick them up. The chocolates served multiple purposes. It got them engaged right off the bat. They were opening packages, opening candies, passing them from table to table, doing something active. It woke them up, both from the small sugar fix and more importantly from the here-is-something-you-don’t-see-every-day-maybe-I-better-pay-attention opening of my talk.
The bravado in my speech was to transfer confidence to them that what I had to say was worthwhile. It also was a bet. I just bet them I could keep their attention enough to keep them off their phones. They were paying closer attention just to see if I could make good on that bet.
I knew the crowd would be restless, sluggish and unfocused. I anticipated that. Then I took steps specifically to help them change their mood to the mood I needed to sell my product. You can’t sell the unwilling. You also can’t sell the unprepared-to-buy. You have to get them in the right mood first. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling toys, pet supplies, floor tiling or ideas. If you don’t anticipate your customers’ needs and take care of those needs, you cannot build the relationship necessary to make the sale.
Here is a simple exercise for you and your staff to do. Answer the question, “What does my customer need the moment she walks through the door to get in the right mood for shopping?”
If it is cold and snowy, she made need a place to take off her coat and boots. If you are off the beaten path and you get customers from a long drive, she may need to use the bathroom. If you are downtown or in a mall where she has been shopping other stores, she may need a place to put her packages. If it is early morning, she may need a shot of caffeine. (Heck, that could work late in the afternoon, too.) Solve that need and your customers will be ready to buy what you’re selling.
PS Getting my audience to fill out the survey in advance, while bribing them with dark chocolates, not only got me a higher score on the survey, but more importantly gave them more time after the talk to come up to me to do the real buying. I was speaking to group of downtown development directors. None of them were there looking for speakers, but out of the 60 groups represented I got a dozen opportunities to speak because I made them more open to buy.
PPS Sure your product has to be good. At the end of the day it is always about the product. But no matter how good your product, if you don’t get people in the mood to buy, they won’t be buyers.